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91.7 FM will be sold again

The radio station formerly known as KTRU will have another new home soon.

Houston Public Media, which operates the University of Houston’s broadcasting properties, says it will sell the frequency and transmitter for KUHA (91.7 FM) while retaining the station’s classical music format via online streaming and an HD Radio subchannel of KUHF (88.7 FM).

The university paid $9.5 million in 2010 to purchase 91.7 FM from Rice University, which operated the station as KTRU. It was relaunched as UH’s third broadcasting property along with KUHF, its news and National Public Radio outlet, and KUHT (Channel 8).

Lisa Shumate, general manager of Houston Public Media, said the decision to sell, which was approved by UH regents Thursday, reflected the organization’s need to focus on “the best piece of technology and the best use of donor funds.”

“We are already in HD and are streaming (with the classical music format),” Shumate said.

“Why would you pay for another transmitter and tower when if you take the time you can tell the public how they can get better sound using (HD Radio) at 88.7?”

See here for the KTRU story. I’m not going to relitigate any of that, but I suppose one could argue that if the frequency and transmitter no longer count as “the best piece of technology” out there because of HD radio, then Rice sold at the right time and probably got a pretty good price. That doesn’t address how the sale went down or any of the other issues around it, so I doubt that will make any KTRU backer any happier, but it’s something. KUHF, which had the story first, has more.

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3 Comments

  1. Joe White says:

    1) To whom are they going to sell? It’s in the non-commerical educational frequency range, so not Clear Channel.

    2) Wes Horner, the former director of Smithsonian Media, the founding producer of both Performance Today and From the Top, and the consultant Lisa Shumate brought in to help expand The Front Row (before summarily firing them all) had this to say:

    “In my view, this tragic scenario in Houston results from:
    – Bad business decisions; to wit, paying too much money for a poor signal, then saddling that same service, rather than the organization as a whole, with the “mortgage.”
    – Management unwillingness to invest in making important dayparts in the service more listenable. (To my amazement, few classical stations do. Many forget, for some reason, Radio 101 tenets, including dynamic personality; timely, meaningful information; cultivation of a community of interest; and overall, offering a service that listeners will value, based on delivering a feeling of connectedness).
    – An astonishing inability to raise money, in a market where there are loads of it poured into other cultural institutions.
    SO, I wouldn’t be too hasty to interpret from Houston’s actions that there is a message there that can be universally applied to other classical terrestrial services. Instead, pay close attention to the ones that are working, and figure out why.”
    3) KUHA had a huge opportunity, and Shumate et al. blew it. Instead of becoming *the* source for Houston-made arts, it simply took subscribers money to rebroadcast shows form Minnesota. HPM has turned something that was personal – our local classical arts outlet that used to highlight Houston performances and performers – and made it impersonal, with programing that has little to nothing to do with the Houston community, i.e. their listenership. There is the occasional programming crumb from the HSO or ROCO, but the vast majority of airtime is devoted to recorded content readily available elsewhere. Why should I as a listener care to donate money to that?

  2. Joe White says:

    Maybe Rice will buy it back…. 😉

  3. Ms. Marty Panz says:

    Fourth largest city and no classical music radio station. Way to go, UH. Houston Proud? Not.